The Green Recovery Challenge Fund, was established by the UK Government to kick-start nature recovery, create green jobs and tackle climate change. One project to receive Green Recovery funding was the Curlew Recovery Northern England which aimed to support work to halt the decline of curlew in two priority landscapes, RSPB Geltsdale & Hadrian’s Wall and the Forest of Bowland.  The project aimed to help farms to restore land and improve habitat condition for breeding curlew and to enable community involvement from local villages though volunteering and other engagement.   

As we approach the end of this year long project Project Officer, Tina Taylor for RSPB Geltsdale and Hadrian’s Wall reflects on the work that has been achieved and consider how to build upon these achievements to ensure a lasting legacy.   

A really important benefit of this Green Recovery funded project is that it provided additional support for the Curlews in Crisis project, which is funded by the LIFE programme of the European Union.  The RSPB Geltsdale and Hadrian’s Wall project site is one of five priority areas across the UK, identified as hot spots for breeding curlew.  In each of these sites, the Curlew LIFE team are working with farmers, land managers and the local community to improve habitat conditions curlew and raise awareness.   

Being new to working in this area, at Hadrian’s Wall, we started our year getting to know our local community and setting up our monitoring programme. Over the spring and summer an amazing new team of twelve volunteers helped us undertake ecological surveys over 2,200 hectares of farmland.  We have recently recruited new volunteers to support an expanded monitoring programme in 2022.  This work will provide vital information about how our breeding curlews are doing; help us more effectively target habitat improvements and understand how curlews respond to them.    

Adult curlew in flight

Adult curlew in flight near Hadrian’s Wall © Gerry Spencer

Thanks to the enthusiasm and support of local farmers and partner organisations we have been able to identify target areas and develop a programme of habitat improvements to benefit breeding curlews.  Our Green Recovery funding has provided a real boost for this programme of works which we started to deliver during the autumn and winter. Works include 40 hectares of vegetation management, removing self-seeded conifers from a 12-hectare area of protected blanket bog in addition to creating a series of wet features along a 500m stretch of an existing drainage ditch. These actions will have multiple benefits: improving or expanding breeding habitat for curlew; restoring priority habitats and improving grazing availability for cattle and sheep. We are particularly grateful to Northumberland National Park Authority, the National Trust and Natural England for their advice and practical support planning and delivering this work. 

Blanket bog before Sitka spruce removal © Christina Taylor

Blanket bog after Sitka spruce removal © Gavin Reichert

At RSPB Geltsdale Reserve, through conservation grazing management and mechanical cutting we have further improved habitat conditions for breeding curlews on the reserve. We also tweaked our long-standing monitoring programme so that it most effectively supports project aims.  

Our Green Recovery funding allowed us to engage local consultancy Wild Intrigue who have supported us in developing and delivering a community engagement programme for both areas. This will help us connect with the local community and visitors to the area to raise awareness and encourage others to get involved.

Christina Taylor
Curlew LIFE Project Officer – RSPB Geltsdale and Hadrian’s Wall